Summer holidays can lead to a drop in children’s learning levels when they are left to electronic devices, with studies showing there may not be enough mental or physical stimulation over the long holiday period.
According to University of Canterbury Lecturer Glynne Mackey, programme coordinator for Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (Early Childhood), from the College of Education, Health and Human Development, the holidays are a prime time for families with children of all ages to learn while having good times together.
“Children will hold close holiday memories of their family having time with them so they return to school or their early childhood education centre with a feeling of belonging to a loving, caring group,” Mackey explains.
“They also become more confident when adults encourage their skill development, trust them to be responsible with carrying out tasks appropriate to their age, and acknowledge their participation and good ideas,” she says.
Mackey says there are a dozen of ideas for involving children in informal learning opportunities, while at the same time creating some memorable brain-stimulating family fun together:
1. Gather with family and/or friends to organise a concert. Share the responsibilities, make popcorn, print a programme, create music and dance numbers to perform for each other.
2. Think about some great books to read together and remember to bring out those educational games the children may have received for Christmas. Read aloud to younger children; they learn to read by example. Make up poems together.
3. Make regular visits to the local public library, where librarians can help you with some great books for children of all ages and reading abilities. The public library also has kids’ programmes available over summer.
4. Cooking, baking and menu-planning together can include science and maths, such as reading recipes (similar to following scientific formulas, especially something exciting and easy like three-ingredient hokey-pokey), measuring and weighing ingredients, timing the cooking. Menu planning could include calculating the money you need to buy the ingredients and sticking to a set budget. Maybe compare nutrition and costs with eating out.
5. Family and adults often have more time to spend time with children during the holidays, which is important to maintain strong relationships. Make sure you have uninterrupted conversations away from distracting technology and social times where children participate in the planning. Adults need to be aware of how much time they spend on their portable devices while in the company of children.
6. Watch an age-appropriate movie or TV show together and discuss it with your child. Ask: what they thought of the main story? Did they like or dislike the hero and villain? Was the show acted well? What about the music? You can show that you value your child’s opinion while developing their critical perspective.
7. Get growing and make a garden together – use books or the internet to find out about the best plants to grow at this time of the year. Plants that grow quickly and/or produce food that your child likes to eat are a good idea.
8. Listen to your children’s ideas for what they want to do – try to do some of the outings they suggest. Involve them in the planning and keep them informed about what is coming up each day.
9. Maybe give them a set amount of money (in cash) for the holidays, or week by week, depending on your child’s age. They get to plan how they want to spend it and keep a log of how it is used to encourage financial literacy and budgeting skills. Talk about their plan and how it might best be achieved. Have some unpaid tasks expected as being part of the family group and some paid tasks if they want to earn extra money to put towards their goal. It is okay to make some mistakes. This could be valuable for future financial decisions.
10. Visit your local recycling centre, such as Creative Junk, for some great ideas on how to rethink, re-use and recycle creatively, and see what the children can create from a bag full of bits, such as some wearable art. (The environmentally friendly Christchurch charity reopens 20 January 2016. See creativejunk.org.nz for more information.)
11. Explore local walks and discover, by reading or talking to others, the history of the area and what people a long time ago once did there. Talk about how this has changed.
12. Make a pictorial record of some of these holiday adventures to send to a friend or relative far away.